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Wed 23 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Search giant spreads its wings

Google is looming ever larger on the radar of the world’s largest software company and has now launched a new site that could give eBay cause for concern…

|~||~||~|Earlier this month a leaked Microsoft memo found its way onto a plethora of IT news wires, in which Mr. Gates warns that more innovative companies – Google being the key example – are in danger of usurping his gold-plated applecart. From an internet search standpoint for instance, Microsoft is already playing catch-up. It continues to invest millions of dollars in its web search division, yet Google is still very much ruling the roost.

Well done Google, you might say, for socking it to the biggest boys of them all. But there’s more: this particular sock is still swinging and I for one reckon it’s heading eBay’s way. Why? Well it’s all about a little release called Google Base…

The main function of this trial site is to let any user with an internet connection publish text and picture content to the web. A nice idea on its own then, particularly if Google devises an ingenious way to help us cut through the rambling dross that will no doubt gather and get to the juicy stuff quickly. But although Google itself has not made much noise so far about Base’s potential as a classified advertising forum, it is this function that, over time, could become its biggest draw.

Just as you can use Base to publish your latest recipes, holiday snaps, or thoughts on foreign presidents, there’s nothing to also stop you also selling you own (or somebody else’s) wares on the site. Google even helps out by gifting budding retailers a batch upload tool.

Should this site end up being polished and improved enough (and to be honest, the Beta version you’ll find at www.base.google.com does need it), then Google Base has the potential to pull consumers away from the classified ad pages of newspapers and even away from the mighty eBay, especially if the final version of Base is less nigglesome and time-consuming to use than eBay and remains fee-free).

In this region specifically, the absence of a Middle East eBay portal means Base has one less hurdle to jump to become a serious commercial force. Zoom in another level to the UAE and here Etisalat’s ever-so-kind banning of Expatriates.com means that most English-speaking users with something to sell find themselves without a decent, region-wide online marketplace. One more reason to head Google-wards.

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